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Web Browser Grand Prix 4: Firefox 4 Goes Final

Web Browser Grand Prix 4: Firefox 4 Goes Final
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It's official! After four months of delays, twelve betas, and two RCs, Firefox 4 has gone final. But after all that, does this fox still have teeth? Can Internet Explorer 9 retain the WBGP title, or will it become the shortest-lived champion to date?

Last week, Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 became the Web Browser Grand Prix (WBGP) champion, just one day before Firefox 4 was released (you can download it right here). Although testing began the day of Internet Explorer 9's launch (we have that one available for download, too), the timing of our publication ended up being quite unfortunate. Scores of angry Firefox 4 fans stormed the comments and forums, torches and pitchforks in hand. They demanded an update with Firefox 4 RC2 included. They offered up a leaked final copy for testing. They demanded the story be taken down and IE9 stripped of its title. They accused us of blasphemy and called for my head.

Since our update to the WBGP3's first page was no use against the angry horde, let's clear this up right here on the front page of WBGP4.

We only test final products in the WBGP. If we let one pre-release build in, we have to let them all in. Fair for one is fair for all, right? When that happens, things get weird. No one wants to be measured purely for speed against Chrome Canary. It may shut itself down whenever it pleases, but damn it's fast. Or remember when the IE9 platform preview came out? No discernible method to interact with the application in any way, but hey, look at those benchmark scores! Officially-distributed stable code is our line in the sand. We're calling a winner at the end of this, and you just don't compare development builds to final products in that setting. You just don't.

That phony final copy of Firefox 4 was a perfect example of why. We ran it through the WBGP3 suite on the WBGP3 test installation before wiping the drive for WBGP4. We hoped that wasn't indicative of the final build, and Mozilla confirmed it wasn't.

Now that Mozilla also has a major refresh on the scene, it's already time for Microsoft to defend its title. But this article isn't simply a rematch, a do-over of WBGP3. No, this truly is WBGP4. And that means an update to our suite of benchmarks. New contender Firefox 4 brings with it the ability to crack open two brand new areas of testing: HTML5 hardware acceleration and WebGL. Before Firefox 4 went final, only Google Chrome could take advantage of WebGL, making comparison impossible. Likewise, WBGP3 champion Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 was the only stable Web browser to utilize HTML5 hardware acceleration. Today, Mozilla gets to take them both on.

Since the publication of WBGP3, Chrome 10 has also received some minor updates (we're using 10.0.648.204 for our testing here), and we've introduced a couple of other new benchmarks as well. But before we get to the testing, let's take a look at what Mozilla has been up to these past few months with a featurette on Firefox 4.

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  • 14 Hide
    LuckyDucky7 , April 4, 2011 4:18 AM
    Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus.

    That pretty much sums it up. No amount of optimization will help you when it comes to loading web pages if you have a large amount of adframes and such to slow you down.

    So have your super-fast IE9: I bet the ads will appreciate loading quick too.
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    reprotected , April 4, 2011 4:13 AM
    Because people can't wait for half a second. I never had a single rendering problem with any of my browsers.
  • 14 Hide
    LuckyDucky7 , April 4, 2011 4:18 AM
    Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus.

    That pretty much sums it up. No amount of optimization will help you when it comes to loading web pages if you have a large amount of adframes and such to slow you down.

    So have your super-fast IE9: I bet the ads will appreciate loading quick too.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , April 4, 2011 4:34 AM
    @ericburnby

    you must enjoy all those ads, in real world the difference in speed is negligible, but i sure has hell appreciate a rock stable browser, which is not what IE is, now saying that i have to say IE9 is definitely light years ahead of it's predecessor

    have used all 3 browser and found FF to be the most stable by far
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 4, 2011 4:43 AM
    @ StableBrowser,

    You must enjoy being an ignorant Fx fanboy. IE9 comes with adblocking features without needing any extensions.
  • 0 Hide
    nd22 , April 4, 2011 4:44 AM
    IE9 is indeed fast, but my question relates to Safari, a browser created specifically for Mac, not for Windows. On Mac Safari is incredible fast, why Tom’s did not tested Safari on the platform which it was designed for?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 4, 2011 4:44 AM
    @luckyducky7

    "Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus.

    That pretty much sums it up. No amount of optimization will help you when it comes to loading web pages if you have a large amount of adframes and such to slow you down.

    So have your super-fast IE9: I bet the ads will appreciate loading quick too."

    Not if you use tracking protection.
  • 1 Hide
    adamovera , April 4, 2011 4:49 AM
    nd22IE9 is indeed fast, but my question relates to Safari, a browser created specifically for Mac, not for Windows. On Mac Safari is incredible fast, why Tom’s did not tested Safari on the platform which it was designed for?

    It is my hope that we'll be able to do that. Hopefully for the next major Safari release. If that's at the same time as Lion, then we might have to use the latest updated Snow Leopard for time reasons.
  • 1 Hide
    jsowoc , April 4, 2011 5:03 AM
    Re: Acid3
    This is why Firefox doesn't get 100:
    http://limi.net/articles/firefox-acid3/
  • 2 Hide
    stm1185 , April 4, 2011 5:07 AM
    I loaded up IE today because the Chase website gives me problems with Chrome, and I was surprised by how fast IE9 is now. Loading pages seemingly as fast or faster then chrome. I even thought of switching it to my primary browser, but the lack of Ad-block support killed it. It is a necessary feature and every browser should have it or something like it these days.
  • 2 Hide
    andy5174 , April 4, 2011 5:10 AM
    The latest Chrome is indeed pretty fast, but I just can't live without Tab Mix Plus which is only available to Firefox. Someone please write a similar add-on for Chrome!!!
  • -1 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , April 4, 2011 5:11 AM
    jsowocRe: Acid3This is why Firefox doesn't get 100:http://limi.net/articles/firefox-acid3/

    Good to know, thanks.
  • 0 Hide
    PreferLinux , April 4, 2011 5:45 AM
    You didn't mention "App Tabs" in Firefox!!!
  • 1 Hide
    lancelot123 , April 4, 2011 6:15 AM
    Are Firefox fanboys and others really too stupid to realize that IE9 (as well as other versions) have adblocking "addons" you can get? Too bad ie7pro will never work with IE9, I loved that addon.
  • 1 Hide
    epileptic , April 4, 2011 6:15 AM
    @stm1185 IE9 does support ad blocking. It's called tracking protection. You can write a tracking protection list that will block the ads you usually see or get a more thorough one from the web. Either way, that feature is there. I personally just converted my Opera list and rolled with it.

    @adamovera There's a mistake in your last chart. IE9 should be weak in HTML5 conformance and you're listing it as a winner.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 4, 2011 6:17 AM
    There's something terribly wrong in your test results regarding chrome.
    My 10.0.648.151 do much better, especially since I forced native OpenGL ES support rather than ANGLE.
    Psychedelic - 1709rpm (hd4670@cat11.2 &A64 X2 4400+ 2.3@2.8GHz)
    Aquarium - 58-60fps
    particles 58fps
    HWACCEL - 60+
    html5 vector 40+
    html5 bitmap 50+
    Please try to use
    --enable-webgl --ignore-gpu-blacklist --use-gl=desktop flags (and make sure you have canvas accel enabled by page about:flags too). Retake some of those test with that and see yourselves what it changes.
  • -2 Hide
    Tamz_msc , April 4, 2011 6:55 AM
    I've been a Firefox user since version 2, and Firefox is undoubtedly the best version yet.I use Firefox 4 because its fast, highly customizable, responsive, supports the latest web standards and technologies, has thousands of extensions and on my computer it(along with Opera) is the most stable browser, and as you yourself have stated:

    Quote:
    With that said, Firefox hasn't been a speed demon in a very long time. It's the rock-solid browser. During the 40-tab memory testing, we get see how reliably pages load. Firefox is the only Web browser that consistently loads every single element on every single page all at once, correctly. Each of the other browsers require at least one reload to fix a broken ad or or some other element. Also notice how few times Mozilla's browser is listed in the weak column. With version 4, Firefox is still the rock-solid browser. Which is what it needs to be with that kind of market share - the name of the game is stability over speed when you've got that many users.


    Here are my reasons why I don't use the other browsers:

    1. Chrome - Its true that its very fast, but speed isn't the only thing.It crashes on my computer when you have multiple pages open containing flash.It has the second best addon gallery(the Web store is also very nice), but many of its addons are poor copies of Firefox addons, and it has limited options for customizing.

    2. IE 9 - Its also very fast, but it also has crashed on me a few times and there are virtually no addons at present.

    3. Opera - Its a very good browser, but I find it a bit awkward to use.Its slowly catching up in terms of number of addons, but it cannot render some pages correctly.On my computer, it has problems with Tom's Hardware:

    https://ptjp4w.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pW7J0mRZlCb8T4BHygV4LS_TP-8Kjmljz2XOdMfJ-2tAI2uAQ3kcsFE_uHTv0UHcr1GJrBmuiuUSijne3vvdMF4Uv72_TbbdX/Capture.PNG?psid=1

    4. Safari - As a Windows user, I really don't care.
  • -2 Hide
    memadmax , April 4, 2011 6:56 AM
    FF4+NoScript addon and be happy...
  • -2 Hide
    aznshinobi , April 4, 2011 7:25 AM
    Why are all you guys hating on FF? Like Tamz, I've used FF for a long time, w/o any addons and it works beautifully. I though FF4 was a huge improvement over 3, though 3 was pretty solid. I have yet to use IE9, but I was never a fan of the IE browsers to be honest. I always felt... Like it lacked something. But FF4 has kept me on the FF train and I think I'll stay with it until otherwise.
  • -1 Hide
    yyk71200 , April 4, 2011 7:39 AM
    For the most part, speed differences are negligible. FF is a very well rounded browser. It is responsive and has lots of extensions: ad block, no script, this: http://www.downloadhelper.net/ , etc.
  • -1 Hide
    rainwilds , April 4, 2011 8:06 AM


    Exactly! There is just no comparison to the lovely FireFox addons. This test may test 'millisecond' speeds but misses the all important functionality features.
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